Holders Barcelona, PSG win through to Women’s Champions League semis

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BARCELONA: Barcelona eased to a 3-1 win over Brann on Thursday to set up a repeat of last season’s Women’s Champions League semifinal against Chelsea, progressing 5-2 on aggregate, while Paris Saint-Germain also clinched a place in the last four of Europe’s elite club competition.

Reigning Ballon d’Or Aitana Bonmati, Fridolina Rolfo and Patri Guijarro struck for the defending European champions in the quarter-final second leg, with Barca targeting a third triumph in four seasons.

Stubborn Norwegian surprise package Brann held their own in a 2-1 first-leg defeat and battled hard at the Johan Cruyff Stadium, but Jonatan Giraldez’s side patiently unpicked them.

Tomine Svendheim’s second-half goal gave a strong traveling contingent reward for their noisy support, but Guijarro, who scored twice in last season’s final, killed off any chance of an unlikely comeback.

Barcelona, who beat Chelsea 4-0 in the 2021 final, have now reached the semis for six consecutive seasons.

“I think like last year it will be a very equal tie,” Barca coach Giraldez told reporters.

“(Chelsea) have invested a lot and have a high quality squad.

“For sure we will see a great semifinal, they are in great form — but so are we.”

Bonmati broke the deadlock brilliantly after 24 minutes, wriggling free on the edge of the box and bending home beyond the reach of Brann goalkeeper Aurora Mikalsen.

Barcelona grabbed their second on the night when Caroline Graham Hansen glided inside effortlessly and her blocked cross sat up nicely for Rolfo to tap home in the 56th minute.

The Swedish winger, who scored the winner for Barcelona in last season’s thrilling final against Wolfsburg, has returned from her knee injury with three goals in seven games despite playing at left-back.

Brann then pulled a goal back when Svendheim stole in behind Lucy Bronze and slid a low effort into the far corner after a long drive forward by Signe Gaupset.

Rolfo struck the post for Barca and Guijarro then sealed the win with a tap-in after the vibrant Graham Hansen picked the locks again and put the ball across the face of goal.

“We came here and we pushed them,” said Brann coach Martin Ho.

“We didn’t want to come here and lay low for the whole game, we wanted to make it a challenge.”

In Paris, the home side built on a 2-1 quarter-final first-leg win away to Hacken by beating the Swedish side 3-0 at the Parc des Princes to progress 5-1 on aggregate and set up a semifinal against domestic rivals Lyon.

Impressive Malawi striker Tabitha Chawinga, the top scorer in the French league this season, gave PSG the lead on the night just before the half-hour mark, firing a shot in off the far post on her left foot after collecting a pass from Marie-Antoinette Katoto.

They doubled their lead on 70 minutes as a long-range strike by Korbin Albert sailed into the top corner.

Albert, a 20-year-old midfielder, is a rising star in the US but is at the center of a brewing storm over controversial social media posts which have drawn a strong response from American great Megan Rapinoe.

PSG’s third goal arrived soon after that as Katoto headed in from a Sakina Karchaoui cross for her fifth goal in this season’s Champions League.

The result means there is guaranteed to be a French side in the final in Bilbao in May, with PSG and Lyon meeting in the semifinals next month.

They also clashed in the last four two years ago, when Lyon went on to win the trophy for a record-extending eighth time.

Lyon, who beat Benfica in the quarter-finals, are currently seven points ahead of PSG at the top of the French league.

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